An artsy day with unveilings of a mural, restored curtain in Orange

  • The long-awaited, century-old “Minuteman Curtain” has been restored, and now hangs proudly in the Ruth B. Smith Auditorium at Orange Town Hall following an unveiling ceremony Saturday. STAFF PHOTO/DAVID MCLELLAN

  • The long-awaited, century-old "Minuteman Curtain" has been restored, and now hangs proudly in the Ruth B. Smith Auditorium at Town Hall, following an unveiling ceremony Saturday. STAFF PHOTO/DAVID MCLELLAN

  • Artist Susan Marshall sprinkles water, symbolizing growth, on the mural she painted for the Quabbin Harvest Food Co-op, which is celebrating its 10th anniversary. STAFF PHOTO/DAVID MCLELLAN

  • Supporters and members of the Quabbin Harvest Food Co-op surround a mural, painted by local artist Susan Marshall, which was unveiled at the cooperative Saturday. STAFF PHOTO/DAVID MCLELLAN

Staff Writer
Published: 11/11/2019 1:05:18 AM

ORANGE — The Millers River, Quabbin Reservoir and a statue in Concord — those sights might not be right next to each other geographically, but you can now see artists’ depictions of the famous spots at two locations across the street from each other in Orange. 

It was an artsy weekend in Orange, as just within a few hours on Saturday two installations were unveiled — a new mural for Quabbin Harvest Food Co-op and the long-awaited Minuteman Curtain at Town Hall. 

Quabbin Harvest mural 

Quabbin Harvest Food Co-op started 10 years ago at the Orange Innovation Center. Since then, the member-owned business with a goal of strengthening the local food economy has not just survived, but grown — having moved to its current location on North Main Street five years ago. 

This weekend, a new mural spanning the building’s 30-foot chimney was unveiled in celebration. The mural was painted by local artist Susan Marshall, who is known in Orange for having painted the mural outside Trail Head Outfitter and General Store. 

“This has been an amazing project,” said Marshall, adding that she is “grateful” to have her piece hang outside a business she herself supports. 

As she is used to, creating the piece to fit the dimensions of the chimney was a “logistical challenge, “ Marshall said, and the painting is composed of five panels she began working on in June.  

Titled “Reaching for the Sky,” the mural has depictions of a river (the Millers River) surrounded by shrubbery and animals, like rabbits, reaching upward toward the Quabbin Reservoir. In the background is Mount Grace, because the Mount Grace Land Conservation Trust owns the Quabbin Harvest building. 

“We start off with the waterways, the Millers River, and move on up to the Quabbin,” Marshall said. “It’s called ‘Reaching for the Sky,’ and we’re hoping that’s what Quabbin Harvest will do.”

After the mural was shown, Marshall and others sprinkled water on it, symbolizing growth. 

“This is a moment of both endings and beginnings,” said Cathy Stanton, chair of the Quabbin Harvest board. “It’s a fresh visual start. This really captures the energy I feel that makes this coop work.”

Stanton said it is time to “put the gardens to bed,” given it’s fall, and also move past Quabbin Harvest’s first decade. 

Looking forward, Stanton said she is encouraged and hopes the cooperative will grow — $6,000 was raised at an auction for Quabbin Harvest yesterday, which will partly pay for the mural. 

Along with Orange, other towns’ cultural councils — Warwick, New Salem, Phillipston, Athol and Wendell — helped fund the mural with grants. 

“Why would Phillipston give us money? It’s the local agriculture, it’s the food economy,” Stanton said. 

“We have a new tagline: Eat local, celebrate farms, find friends,” she added. 

Pat Davis, from the North Quabbin Chamber of Commerce, also attended the mural celebration, and said he appreciates Quabbin Harvest not only as a member, but also because of what it stands for. 

Besides grocery stores and other conventional ways of buying food, Davis said the area would be a “food desert” without local farms and places like Quabbin Harvest. 

He’s proud to support a local business that supports local farms, Davis said. 

“This is a beautiful example of what can happen here,” Davis said. 

Minuteman Curtain

Across the street from Quabbin Harvest stands the current iteration of the Orange Town Hall, which, when built in 1912, was originally accompanied by a stage curtain.

The curtain, known as the “Minuteman Curtain” because of its depiction of the Minuteman statue in Concord, underwent restoration and conservation by the Vermont-based nonprofit Curtains Without Borders last summer, after decades of being in storage. 

The Minuteman Curtain was donated to the town by the local popular Minute Tapioca Company in 1912, which existed where Orange Innovation Center is now. To celebrate the new Town Hall, Minute Tapioca commissioned Twin City Scenic Company in Minneapolis, Minn., to create the stage backdrop. 

That curtain was unveiled Saturday afternoon, following months of anticipation and a fundraising campaign by the Town Hall Restoration Committee and Orange Revitalization Partnership that paid for the curtain’s restoration and rigging. 

The curtain is “a splendid example of a high-end, ornate opera house curtain,” said Curtains Without Borders’ Chris Hadsel, who worked on the curtain last year. 

Hadsel said the curtain had many cuts and tears which had to be repaired, and her small team of conservationists worked painstakingly to touch up faded areas with paint — touch-ups were done while the curtain was unrolled, so that it would be possible to touch up the hard-to-reach, central areas of the curtain. 

Hadsel explained that such curtains were popular, especially in New England, during the late 1800s and early 1900s. Curtains Without Borders has worked on more than 500 such curtains in New England — including nearby Leverett, Wendell and Leyden. 

Such curtains from the early 20th century frequently depicted a famous or picturesque setting, often not a location from the town where the curtain is hung. Details weren’t perfect, and there was a “fantasy” aspect to the curtains, which functioned as backdrops for plays, concerts and other performances in Town Halls, granges and theaters. 

Many of the aspects of the Minuteman Curtain are common in other towns’ historic stage curtains. Drapes are painted onto the curtain as a border, and locations in Concord were popular on curtains because of the vistas’ patriotic appeal — the “shot heard ’round the world” appeal, Hadsel said. 

Other aspects are rare. Hadsel said she has only ever worked on about a dozen “fly” curtains like the Minuteman Curtain, which are meant to be raised from floor to ceiling. Also, Hadsel said, few towns in the area have curtains as large as Orange’s, and she has only once ever seen another curtain made by the Twin Cities company. 

“We don’t restore, we’re not going to make them red and shiny and out-of-the-box, we’re going to treat them like they’re 100 to 130 years old,” said Hadsel, explaining to the crowd of people in Ruth B. Smith Auditorium that the curtain won’t look perfect, but is a historical piece unique to Orange. 

Reach David McLellan at dmclellan@recorder.com or 413-772-0261, ext. 268. 


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